July 20, 2009
We're Not All Bad Guys
I'm tired of being the bad guy. Congress continues to propose legislation that threatens my livelihood. The media makes us out to be a bunch of bloodthirsty scavengers. My own friends and family have inferred that I must have made out like a bandit when the subprime markets were flourishing. They couldn't be more wrong.
I had a chance to discuss our current economy with my cousin this weekend at our bi-annual family reunion. He is the President of a community bank in western Montana. He and I both feel like we've been scapegoated by the 'blamegamers' - those who want to treat everyone in our industry as an equal partner in the disaster that precipitated the real estate market's demise.
Here's what you're NOT hearing from the news media: My cousin tracks every foreclosure in his county. He pores over the names, the property addresses, and the property types. He then compares them to his lists of rejected applicants. The number of people his bank rejected, but still went out and found someone to lend them money, is astounding.
My cousin's bank has only two REO (real estate owned) properties on their books. TWO. Does that sound like a bank who went nuts in the heydays, throwing other peoples' money around like a child in a pile of leaves? Yet I don't remember ever reading about the judicious lending parameters of community banks - just how ALL banks are filled with thieves, liars, and cheats.
A close friend and I were discussing the mortgage debacle several months ago. He wanted me to at least acknowledge that I benefitted from all the egregious lending practices of subprime lenders nationwide. Sorry, but that train pulled out from a different station. I was never involved in the conventional lending markets whatsoever, and once again I found myself defending business practices that should have never been questioned in the first place.
I'm reminded of the year my oldest son went through third grade. A perfect student until then, we began to get disturbing reports of all kinds of behavior we'd personally never witnessed. I came down hard on him, forcing him to write letters of apology to his teacher, restricting his extracurricular activities, and withholding special privileges from him. This continued the entire school year, even though the more I met with his teacher at the conferences, the more skeptical I became.
At the first parent/teacher conference of fourth grade, he was once again the shining star of his class. When I pointblank asked his teacher if he had exhibited any of the behaviors so problematic from a year earlier, she looked at me in disbelief, unable to imagine him acting in that manner. It was then I decided that it was not he who had the problem in third grade, but his teacher. In speaking with several other parents whose children also had this teacher, any doubts I had about my son were quickly erased. She was just a horribly pathetic teacher.
Here's my point: I punished my son for the sins of his teacher. (You'll have to ask the NEA why this teacher even has a job.) In the same way, I feel all of us who work hard every day, who maintain ethics and integrity every step of the way, still get thrown under the bus with the REAL 'bad guys', who aren't even in the business anymore, but back working their old jobs at the car wash.
We're not all bad guys. Some of us really are here to help people solve their financial problems. Sure, there is a lot of blame to throw around for the mess we're in - just be sure you have all the facts before you paint a scarlet letter on anyone. I made that mistake with my oldest son, and I've regretted it ever since. He forgave me long ago - he acknowledged there was simply no way for me to know, and why wouldn't we believe a teacher over an eight-year-old?
So now you know the truth. Most of us out here try to do the right thing, make the right decisions, treat people the way they want to be treated. Now I just need to get this message to the media and the politicians...
Make it a great week.
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